There is a story told about George Bernard Shaw meeting a beautiful actress. The actress said, "Let’s get married and have children. Just think, your brains and my looks." Unimpressed, Shaw replied, "But what if the child has my looks and your brains?"
Often parents have the right concepts but apply them wrongly or emphasize the wrong things.
An example is what I call Technique Parenting. By this I mean that parents believe an “issue” they are having with their little progeny can be solved through some as yet hidden technique.
These parents read countless books and articles in search of the golden chart, the ingenious reward system that will turn their belligerent offspring into self-motivating, respectful, high-achieving child prodigies. In other words, if your child is having a particular problem, we are led to believe that all you have to do is look it up in an encyclopedia of kids problems, apply the listed solution like some kind of medicine and – bang – you will have perfect results.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I read these books and articles too. Good technique is great. But unfortunately, it falls way too short on what really creates great children and great people.
More than any technique, your child needs your time, your concern, your caring.
Every parent instinctively knows this to be true. Worse than any bad technique, the most damaging thing you can do to your children is to tell them you really don’t care about them – and actually mean it.
I can’t tell you how shocked I was when I heard an otherwise rather gifted young boy explain why he had just tried to kill himself. Whenever he met his father, the father would always tell the child how much he hated him.
Alternatively, every healthy parent everywhere, all over the world, says this universal line to their children: “I love you.” Intuitively we all know that this is the best medicine a child can have.
But just saying it is often is nowhere near enough.
A middle-class father who gets home from work just in time to tuck his little girl into bed and whisper “I love you” is a little disingenuous if he does this every night. His daughter knows deep down that if he really loved her as much as he says, he would he come home earlier. Now for some, just putting food on the table requires that level of effort, and the child will understand that. But when the father is working long hours for an unnecessary lifestyle, it sends a clear message to the child: I am not as important as a new BMW.
Caring is not just paying for the most expensive school. It’s taking the time to meet the teachers, see what kind of children the school produces, check the child’s homework. Caring is time, caring is involvement, caring is overseeing.
Caring is values. It’s caring what your children believe in, what rules they abide by, how they choose friends.
“Good parenting skills without good values is,” as Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out, “like having a very expensive radio and thinking it will help improve the programming.”
Caring is not encroaching or smothering. Think of it as you would a delicate primrose. If every day you prodded and pruned, nothing would grow. If you took no notice it would be wild and unruly.
Tender loving care in the right amount and the right dose is what’s called for. Each flower has its own needs, each blossom its own perfection. A tulip won’t become a daffodil. Understand who your children are and what they can become, and water appropriately.
I think everyone can all agree this is no easy thing. But for those wishing to be great gardeners, here is a little secret – a little self-growth on your part will give you a lot of understanding into the secret life of the nature of plants.